Monday, May 9, 2011

Pilots N Paws: Pilots Saving Shelter Pets

By Linda Cole

Nonprofit organizations across the country help pets in a variety of ways. Pilots N Paws is an online organization with a unique transporting program that has given rescue organizations, shelters and people who foster pets the ability to move unwanted and homeless pets to locations around the country where a new home is hopefully waiting for the pet. Pilots and plane owners who want to help improve the chances that a pet can find a forever home are offering their planes and time. They fly pets from an area where there's little chance a pet can be placed in a home, to another area where the pet's chances of being adopted are much better. Pilots are also flying pets who have been adopted to their new homes around the country. Pilots who want to help rescue shelter pets can get together with shelters and rescue organizations to plan their own special way of saving a pet's life.

Pilots N Paws is a volunteer organization that doesn't ask for donations. It's a website that was started by Debi Boies who was involved in Doberman rescue in upstate South Carolina and her friend, Jon Wehrenberg, a pilot, who had volunteered to fly a rescued Doberman from Florida to Debi's home in South Carolina. After the flight, the two began to discuss the need for a better way of moving homeless pets across the country besides the traditional way of setting up car transports. They began on February 8, 2008 with their first official life-saving flight. To date, the volunteer pilots number over 1,800 and there are 8,100 registered users with more registering every day who use the Pilots N Paws website to connect with each other. Debi and Jon are shooting for 10,000 pilots to make sure there are enough planes to transport homeless pets wherever they need to go to help them find a new home.

Their site has a forum where rescue groups and shelters can post messages about any pets needing transport to a new location. A pilot reading the forum determines which, if any, of the pets they can assist. The pilot will then contact the person or organization making a flight request, and the two parties make appropriate plans for transporting the pet.

Pilots N Paws has a 501(c)(3) tax status. Pilots are not allowed to accept any money that would compensate them for any of the flights they make. However, the FAA gives the nonprofit organization a Humanitarian Flights tax status which allows pilots to declare part of their expenses for flights as donations, which are tax deductible.

Soldiers returning from overseas who have rescued dogs from the war zone transport the dogs on commercial flights to the U.S. Once on American soil, a pilot then flies the dog to the soldier's home. One transport flight carried a Steppe Eagle that a group of Navy Seals had rescued in Afghanistan after the bird had been shot. The eagle's new home is at Berkshire Bird Paradise alongside an American Bald Eagle.

Pilots who volunteer do so because most are happy to have a good excuse for hopping in their plane and taking off. And any time you can combine saving a homeless pet's life with flying, it's a good thing. Cats, dogs, reptiles, pot-bellied pigs, rabbits and one 13 foot python have been transported by pilots to new locations throughout the United States.

If you agree with the mission of Pilots N Paws and would like to help or get involved yourself, please visit their website for more information. They are always searching for more pilots who haven't heard about their organization and who might want to become involved in their life-saving mission. If you are a pilot, or know one who might be interested in helping to relocate homeless pets, you can find what you need on their website. To help spread the word, you can download and print out a flyer from the site to post at your local airport.

Shelter pets can use all the help we can give them. Whether it's donating some CANIDAE dog food or cat food to a shelter or rescue organization, or posting a flyer at your local airport or anywhere around town where people can read it, the help is always appreciated. Millions of pets need forever homes. The ability to transport them from one shelter to another one where the pet has a better chance of finding a home, or delivering a pet to a new home, is very satisfying to the pilots who donate their time and plane to save a pet's life.

Read more articles by Linda Cole


  1. I have heard of this organization before and have heard about some of the trips that they make. It is neat to know that it all started where I live, in Upstate, S.C. It is so great that someone did start this organization. I might go read about it to see how to qualify to get an animal transported.

  2. I salute the Pilots!! Way to go pals!!

  3. What a great idea! I love it when people pursue a great idea in order to make the dream a reality!


  4. What a fantastic organisation! More furfriends will be helped by them!


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